Christianity Today has this chilling piece on the Abdul Rahman case. Rahman, you'll remember is the 41 year old Afghan man who converted from Islam to Christianity:
Almost every western nation is calling for the freedom of Abdul Rahman, the Afghan convert to Christianity who faces the death penalty for doing so. At the same time, Afghan clerics are threatening revolt and murder if the Afghan court does not execute him. Is there any way out? Prosecutor Sarinwal Zamari thinks there might be: Rahman, he said, seems crazy. "We think he could be mad," he told the Associated Press. "He is not a normal person. He doesn't talk like a normal person." Freeing Rahman on grounds of insanity would probably mean he would be killed by local Muslims. The Associated Press reports that local imams aren't buying the craziness excuse. Abdull Raoulf, who is a member of the country's main Islamic organization, the Afghan Ulama Council, agreed. "The government is playing games," said Abdul Raoulf. "The people will not be fooled. Cut off his head! We will call on the people to pull him into pieces so there's nothing left." The Associated Press identified Raoulf as a "moderate."
This is, Eugene Volokh notes, one of the most troubling things about calls for the death of Abdul Rahman. They're coming from clerics and ordinary lay people who are considered mainstream and "moderate":
The striking thing about the Abdul Rahman prosecution - in which an Afghanistan court is considering whether to execute Rahman because he converted from Islam to Christianity - is how Establishment the prosecution is. The case is before an official Afghani court. The death sentence is, to my knowlege, authorized by official Afghani law. The New York Times reports that the prosecutor, an Afghan government official, "called Mr. Rahman 'a microbe' who 'should be killed.'" The case is in a country which is close to the West, and is presumably under at least some special influence from Western principles (whether as a matter of conviction or of governmental self-interest).
We're not talking about some rogue terrorist group, or even the government of Iran, which is deliberately and strongly oppositional to the West. We're talking about a country that we're trying to set up as something of a model of democracy and liberty for the Islamic world. And yet the legal system is apparently seriously considering executing someone for nothing more than changing his religion.
This is telling evidence, it seems to me, that there is something very wrong in Islam today, and not just in some lunatic terrorist fringe. Doubtless many, I would hope most, Muslims would not endorse executing converts. But a strand of the religion, and a strand that is not far from the levers of political power in at least some countries, does seem to endorse such a position. This is deeply dangerous, most obviously to residents of countries in which radical Islamism has broad support, but also to residents of Western countries as well.
The incomprehensible (to the Western mind) hostility of Muslims to those who poke fun at their icons or forsake the religion altogether belies a fundamental insecurity in the Muslim consciousness about the validity of their belief system. They sense its inability to persuade the mind and realize it must be spread through fear and intimidation. Like communists during the cold war Muslims know that they have little to offer people so they must resort to the harshest of sanctions to keep the masses from straying across the border.
Compared to the spiritual and cultural riches of Christianity, Muslims subliminally realize, Islam is a religious ghetto. Muslims suffer from a lethal combination of inferiority and persecution complexes which cause the faithful to lash out in hatred at heretics and apostates like Salman Rushdie and Abdul Rahman. Any challenge to the slightest detail of the faith is seen as a dire threat to the entire edifice and must not be tolerated. This is not how people, secure and confident in the basic rightness of their beliefs, act.